Last Saturday at Hollywood Park was the last time that I will see the inside of one of the oldest racetracks in this country. Hollywood Park was the first racetrack that I went to when I arrived in Los Angeles back in 1981. Over the years Hollywood Park and horse racing have lost its luster and finally the old race track could not make a profit. The last race was on Sunday December 22, 2013 and below is the results of the 11th at Hollywood.
Saturday was a reunion of sorts because many of the characters that have haunted Hollywood came together for the last weekend of this track. Below is view from my seat at Hollywood and the cast of characters have not arrived.
Sandman was in his usual spot and still giving out tips to the TVG announcers. Stu the Swim Coach showed up and never lost a race (at least that is what he says but never shows his tickets) and he rooted against everybody's bets because he has 2 dollars on the chalk. All the stooges were there, Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp. There were the same degenerates that will cash a big ticket for you and take a percentage. This turned into a pretty good argument halfway through the day when Sandman gave a percentage of his ticket to one of the ticket cashing degenerates. This degenerate felt he was getting short changed and Sandman got so frustrated and said, "I can't believe I'm arguing with you over my money." Mush even stopped by to explain to the masses that he is probably going to give up going to the track since Hollywood is closing. When I left for the day and said goodbye to Sandman and the other characters, I realized that the curtain has come down on an era that I will never see again. Who knows if all of these characters will be in the same spot at Santa Anita or Los Alamitos. Big question is if these same characters will even go to Santa Anita or Los Alamitos
|Some of the characters|
|Never a dull moment|
|Sandman directing a Stooge|
During a break in my betting, I took a walk around the track to take a last glimpse of the place. I found an area that had been closed for many years and I decided that I was going to take a look around. What are they going to do, kick me out and never let me come back?
These areas were at one time filled with people making bets at windows with real people and watching the simulcasts on tiny tube televisions
This track became the casualty after two companies made their money and moved on. This track's closing will leave a hole on the national racing scene as well as in Los Angeles.
Hollywood Park was bought by Churchill Downs in an attempt to lay a claim by expanding nationally. After six years of owning the track, Churchill Downs became frustrated with the State of California and it's inability to expand casino gambling beyond the Native Indians and it sold the track. In 2005 Churchill Downs sold the track to Bay Meadows Land Company and made a $120 million dollar profit. Bay Meadows was also hoping on getting slot machines through the California legislatures and that failed miserably. Bay Meadows wanted out but the real estate market collapsed, so they held on. In 2013, the real estate market improved and Bay Meadows Land Company cashed in and that was all for Hollywood Park.
Hollywood Park opened it's doors on June 10, 1938 and was a success after one year. It's stakes program attracted some of the nations biggest names. The $50,000.00 Hollywood Gold Cup was won by Seabiscuit. Hollywood Park grew to be a national leader in both attendance and handle. The question now is which tracks will pick up more than the three dozen graded stakes races that Hollywood hosted.
Hollywood Park has become a race track that mirrored it's surroundings of Inglewood California. Across the parking lot you can see what is left of the Fabulous Forum, the home of the Lakers and the Kings but those two teams have moved to a better area with a better home. Inglewood is a blighted, tired and rundown city and that is exactly what the inside of Hollywood Park started to look like over the last number of years.
As I walked to my car, I looked back one more time and looked at the track that introduced me to California Horse Racing and all I could say was thank you for a real good time.